The following projects were supported by the BioLogos Evolution & Christian Faith grant three-year program.
BioLogos does not necessarily endorse the views expressed by the project leaders or their institutions, nor do the project leaders or their institutions necessarily endorse the views expressed by BioLogos.
Re-Orienting Modern Biblical Interpretation: Church Fathers on History, the Letter and Creation
Trinity Western University
Dr. Craig Allert
A common theme that arises among Christians who find theistic evolution incompatible with the Christian faith is that science appears to be driving a “new” interpretation of Genesis 1-3. But this conclusion is indebted to assumption from the Enlightenment view of the world. In this view, any divergent approach to the Bible that does not take “history” seriously or as an explanation of reality is ruled out of bounds. This conclusion, however, shows a disregard for pre-Enlightenment biblical interpretation in the church. All Christians belong to a long heritage of Scriptural interpretation and it is to our benefit that we examine how committed believers in earlier ages read, interpreted, and sought to appropriate Scripture.
This project aims to usher Evangelical Christians into the “strange new world” of patristic biblical interpretation. Building on what has been called theological, or spiritual, interpretation it seeks to learn from the church fathers in their context as churchmen who were committed the spiritual formation of their congregants
Introducing Christians to ancient ways of interpreting the Bible, with the incarnation of Jesus at the center, can serve to re-orient modern biblical interpretation. This may allow those caught between science and faith to see that there is a faithful and orthodox way of reading the creation narratives that is neither “new” nor “accommodated” to the findings of science, but rather, faithful to historic Christian orthodoxy.
The Quickening: How Chemistry Shaped Biology
Seattle Pacific University
Dr. Benjamin McFarland
I propose to write a popular science book titled The Quickening: How Chemistry Shaped Biology that will tell the story of how the familiar columns of the periodic table of elements constrained and guided the development of life. This story shows how the chemical “personalities” of elements organized evolution into a good and viable creation, countering the impression that evolution is a completely meaningless, random process. Recent genomic and biochemical data will be presented as a narrative for the curious non-specialist and illustrated with creative figures provided by Gala Bent, a collaborating art professor. This book will be written for a broad audience and made available in printed and electronic formats. I will also write three articles for a specifically Christian audience connecting Christian theology and scripture to The Quickening’s natural theology. The two central intellectual points of this book are: 1.) the earth provided a special chemical environment that, like a womb, nurtured new life; and 2.) this environment contained a path of chemical development: biological and geological cycles intermingled like wheels within wheels, following the rules of chemical reactions and rolling inexorably away from hydrogen toward oxygen, moving from left to right along the periodic table and producing complex life. A possible quote from back of book is “The periodic table is not just a set of squares on the wall – it was also a roadmap for life. The Quickening shows how that map can be read.”
Divine Hiddenness and Constraints on Creation: Should We Expect God to Create Gradually?
Dr. John Mullen
Many Christians attempt to deny evolutionary biology, thereby creating an intellectual obstacle for biologically-informed non-Christians who might otherwise consider Christianity favorably. Denials of evolution foster the perception that Christianity requires us to believe something that is demonstrably false, but most of us reasonably believe that God never requires that of anyone. Accordingly, the ultimate goal of this project is to remove the perception that evolution is a threat to Christianity, and to do so in such a way that non-specialists find it relatively easy to understand. This ultimate goal is broadly evangelistic, though it also eliminates a source of division among Christians. The proximate goal is to show that evolutionary biology lends very little evidential support to Philosophical Naturalism over Classical Theism. To do this, it must be shown that a gradual creation is an expected consequence of Theism. We may reasonably suppose that God, to accomplish His purposes as we can reasonably perceive them, must remain hidden to us to the point of leaving Naturalism as a “live-option” for us given our publically-accessible evidence. If so, God has good reasons to create gradually and can reasonably be expected to do so. This conflicts with a tendency most of us have to think that God would want to make His presence obvious to us. This project will be carried out through a series of academic papers, a popular-level book, and possible speaking engagements. The latter are intended to disseminate the philosophical ideas argued in the papers to a wider audience.
Christian Faith and Science: A Field Guide for the 21st Century
Professor Timothy O'Connor
I will write a book on the integration of traditional Christian faith with those sciences that directly impinge upon the fundamental character of the physical world or what it means to be human. I will try to engage reasonably well religious and nonreligious philosophers, scientists, and the broader educated public. The primary value of the book will be one of synthesis: providing a framework for thinking about how to weave together with integrity what we learn from what Francis Bacon called ‘the Book of God’s Works’ and ‘the Book of God’s Word’ and attempting to bring out the intellectual appeal of the resulting synthesis. There are excellent recent books from scientists on the compatibility of modern science and Christian faith, written for general audiences. And there are fine scholarly writings by philosophers on the reasonableness of theism and/or Christian faith, written for fellow philosophers. But there is not so much available that both discusses with some depth the rational justification of religious belief while delving into the distinctive issues raised by the sciences. I will present a particular framework for thinking about the role of reason in Christian faith that I believe is philosophically defensible. I will then apply this framework to issues raised by recent cosmology; the apparently stochastic character of particle physics; general biological evolutionary theory; evolutionary theories specifically of aspects of human psychology, including moral and religious belief; and the diverse sciences of brain and behavior.
God's Brushes: Evolution, Creation, and Christian Faith
Professor Jeffrey Schloss
This project seeks to complete a comprehensive analytic survey of fundamental anthropological, ethical, and other philosophical concerns important across Christian traditions and for which evolutionary theory has profound if still unresolved implications: human uniqueness and imago dei, design and teleology in biological systems, natural evil, progress and providence in nature's history, love as a credible human telos, the biological origin of moral judgment, the evolution of religious cognition and attendant implications for theistic belief. The project will assess these issues in light of both theoretical consensus and emerging debates within evolutionary biology itself, and the relationship between varying scientific accounts and both philosophical background beliefs and their putative theological entailments.
Why treat such a broad range of issues in one project? Because – although much popular attention has focused on historiographic or doctrinal issues – the plausible consonance between Christian theism and evolutionary theory very much depends on the interaction between theological understanding and differing evolutionary approaches to this entire range of philosophical issues. Civil, tentative, multi-disciplinary, scientifically & theologically ecumenical assessment is needed.
The project will complete one and substantially develop a second book. Both will emphasize the theological entailments of evolution, and also the implications of background beliefs in formulating and evaluating evolutionary hypotheses. One is an interdisciplinary volume on biology and religion, under contract with Cambridge Press in their philosophy of biology series. The second is a popular book treating a comparable range of issues for a Christian lay audience.
Origins Today: Genesis Through Ancient Eyes
Dr. John Walton
The rift between faith and science in Christian circles today often results in the marginalization of Christians engaged in the sciences, impediments to evangelism, and the attrition of young believers who are told that Christianity is incompatible with the acceptance of evolution or an old earth. A close reading of Genesis 1--3 offers a fresh perspective on this complex issue by seeking to understand the message of Scripture within its ancient context. Analysis of the Genesis creation account and an evaluation of its ancient Near Eastern setting raise the question of whether the Bible provides modern scientific information related to our understanding of the natural world (e.g., cosmology, biology, or human origins), or whether it offers a theological, rather than material, framework for thinking about the cosmos--for example, God made everything and is sovereign over it. This question in turn leads us to inquire whether today's scientific conclusions regarding old earth, common descent, and parentage of the human race necessarily conflict with the Bible or theology. ORIGINS TODAY: Genesis Through Ancient Eyes is a speaking initiative allowing engagement with diverse audiences on these critical topics throughout the United States and internationally during his sabbatical in 2013. ORIGINS TODAY does not presuppose or promote a particular scientific standpoint, but rather aims to facilitate a deeper reading of Scripture among Christians seeking to take the Bible seriously. In the process Christians who identify themselves with a variety of scientific conclusions will be offered insight into the broader compatibility between Bible and science.